Robbie swallowed against the lump in his throat as he cradled his son in his arms, watching as the infant snuffled slightly, letting out a small whimper as he wriggled within his tightly tucked blankets. He simply held him that tiny bit tighter as he told him lowly, "Just try and hold off for a little bit longer, give your Mum a rest."
He glanced over his shoulder to check that Jackie was still asleep, she was, curled onto her side, facing the now empty bassinet. He'd stayed with her as their son had fed for the first time, watched her as she moved carefully, almost awkwardly. She hadn't said anything and Robbie had been surprised to find that the moment wasn't as awkward as he'd thought it might be, they were both too caught up in watching the tiny new life they'd created for it to be that. Finally when the baby was settled back into the clear plastic bassinet, he had pushed himself off the bed and went to call Burke, let him know what had happened.
When he'd returned to the room he'd found Jackie fast asleep and he'd been unable to stop himself from going over to his little boy and staring at him. He should distance himself, he'd known that, he'd made the decision not to be involved but he couldn't seem to tear himself away. His son's eyes were open, his forehead still crinkled and he looked almost perplexed by the turn of events that had led him here. He was immaculate now, clean and perfect looking in a glowing white baby-gro, his small tufts of dark hair no longer matted to his head but soft and downy looking.
Robbie had been unable to stop his wide smile as he'd reached down and took hold of that tiny hand that was encased in the smallest mitten Robbie thought he'd ever seen and felt the tiny fingers within it clutch at his ring finger. Unable to hold back any longer, he reached into the bassinet and carefully picked up the little boy and gathering him close to his chest, holding him for the very first time.
He examined every feature on his face, memorising it, tracing his fingertips over his head and cheek as he felt his heart swell until he thought it might burst. Listening to his snuffles, he'd kissed his forehead, hushed his whimpers and encouraged him to stay quiet to let Jackie rest a little while longer. Eventually the baby quietened, giving a wide yawn as his own eyes closed and Robbie whispered to him, "No matter what else I do, I'm going to make sure that no-one ever hurts you."
The room was silent for a few minutes as Robbie continued to hold his son tightly, unable to bring himself to put him down. He turned when he heard Jackie shift, and saw her eyes open, saw her register the empty crib and watched her straighten as panic shot through her eyes. "I've got him," Robbie assured her lowly.
Jackie swung round to look at him and her shoulders relaxed when she saw that her son was safe and well in Robbie's arms. "Is he sleeping?"
"I didn't think you'd still be here," she continued, a frown crossing her features as she took in the sight of Robbie clutching at their baby almost desperately, as though he never wanted to put him down.
Robbie shrugged, "Felt like I should stay for a bit," he admitted.
She nodded, the heavy silence between them stretching out, the tension in the air palpable. Slowly Robbie crossed the room and lowered the baby into Jackie's arms, watching as her features instantly softened. "I know I said it before but he really is perfect," she whispered as she stared down at him.
"He is, be giving all the girls the run around."
"Although hopefully not for a few years yet," Jackie noted wryly, a small chuckle escaping her.
Robbie gave a small grin, he wanted to sit next to her, wrap his arm around Jackie and hold them both close, instead he was holding himself back, trying to bring himself to drive that final wedge, to turn on his heel and walk away so that he didn't build her hopes, give false expectations of what could be expected of him, but he couldn't, not yet, so instead he asked, "Have you picked a name?"
"No," she admitted. "I had a couple I liked but none of them seem to suit him and I think my brain's too fuzzy to think of something that does."
"Plenty of time."
"Hmmm, maybe but he can't stay Baby Boy Reid forever," Jackie replied unthinkingly.
Robbie felt his shoulder tighten, felt as though someone had hit him in his gut, winded him, it was something he'd never considered, that his little boy wouldn't even have his name, he'd have nothing of his, nothing at all. He cleared his throat after a few long, extended seconds of silence and told her, "You never know, it might catch on."
Jackie's frown was back in place as she looked up at him again. "Robbie...you must have known that he'd have my surname," she offered stiltedly. She wished that the words that were falling from her mouth were different, but he'd made his wishes perfectly clear.
He gave a weak smile, his eyes not lifted from the sleeping baby's face. "Of course I did, just hearing it..." he shook his head. "Doesn't matter."
She wanted to argue with him that it did matter, that the fact her son wouldn't have a father was a topic worth talking about, but she was tired of repeating herself, tired of trying to force his hand, just tired in general if she were to be completely honest. "Well either way he's still going to need a first name." She stroked her finger down his perfect, unmarked cheek and looking back up at Robbie told him sincerely, "I'm glad that you were here for this though, glad that I wasn't on my own."
"I've told you before I'm always going to be here if you need me."
"But you're not," she replied unthinkingly.
He looked at her in surprise. "Of course I am, you only need to ask me-"
Jackie gave an irate sigh as she interrupted, "I shouldn't have to ask."
Robbie felt his shoulders stiffen. "This is what you wanted," he reminded her lowly, "to do this on your own."
"I'm tired, Robbie, tired of having this conversation."
"You brought it up so you obviously want to have it again," he snapped back, his voice a low hiss in order not to wake the little boy.
"I know what I said in the past, but things have changed now he's here, you can't deny that. He deserves a Dad, a proper one."
Robbie felt as though his throat were closing in panic. "You know I can't."
"That's the thing, Robbie, you can do it and I wish more than anything else that you'd at least try."
He looked down at the sleeping baby, his perfect son and he wanted him to stay that way, unmarked by the disappointment of an inadequate father. He'd seen the look of disappointment on Jamie's face too many times, heard the resigned tone in his voice, he couldn't do that to another kid of his. "I just think it would be better if we stuck to what we said."
Jackie let out a humourless chuckle. "You mean the reality where you play the benevolent uncle?"
"Better that than a shit Father," he shot back.
"Not when you're not even willing to try." She stared down at her newborn son again and gave a soft sigh, "Robbie...if you're not willing to try then I want you to stay away."
His heart hammering against his chest, Robbie protested, "I can't." He gave a nervous laugh, "Jackie we work together, it's not like I can just disappear from your life."
"I know that, but I'll be off for at least nine months and then I'll need to decide whether staying in CID is best for this one."
"You can't just leave, you're basically saying I won't see either of you."
"You have a choice," she retorted.
Robbie took in a deep breath, trying to decide how best to explain, whether he should even try. He looked down at his son and realised that what he wanted more than anything was to tell her he'd do anything to keep both of them in his life, but the words stuck in throat. He didn't want to be like his father and he wasn't sure how to be anything but that or distant. His mouth moved and yet no words came out as he tried to force himself to say something. Jackie's head had tilted and she looked at him almost worriedly, her previous anger replaced with concern as she prompted him gently, "Robbie, are you ok?"
"I'm fine, I just...I..." He shook his head and his eyes fixed on their little boy, his large hand cupped his head, smoothing his large fingers over the delicate strands of dark hair as he fought to find his words.
Her head bent close to his and she whispered softly, "Robbie, I'm not asking for you to be perfect, I'm just asking you to try."
He stayed silent, considering her words, wondering if perhaps with Jackie's encouragement just maybe he could do this after all. He wanted to, words couldn't describe how much he loved their son already. So he took a deep breath, readied himself to speak, only to be interrupted by the room door flying open and Stuart rushing into the room holding a oversized blue balloon and wearing a daft grin, a much calmer Burke traipsing in behind him.
"Let's see him then," he chattered excitedly, letting go of the balloon so that it simply bopped along the ceiling.
Jackie tore her eyes away from Robbie, unable to help her proud smile as she tilted the baby slightly so the two newcomers could see him a little better. Robbie let his hand fall away from his cheek, Stuart's excitable prattle hurting his already aching head as the younger man oo'd and ah'd.
He got to his feet, couldn't bring himself to just sit through this moment, couldn't pretend that everything was fine, because it just wasn't. He mumbled his excuses, ignored the flash of disappointment that crossed Jackie's features and walked away, just as he'd always said he would.
His feet were like lead as he walked down the corridor, could hear the soft cries of other infants, tried to block them out, but couldn't block out the sound of his boss's voice calling him, "Robbie, wait a minute."
He turned, tried and failed not to glower, muttered, "What is it, Boss? Thought you'd be glad that one of us was getting back to work," his voice held a note of venom that he just couldn't quite hide, needed to vent his anger somehow.
"Not like you to feel the need to rush back," he replied evenly. "It's a happy occasion, surprised you don't want to stick around."
"I've been here for all of it so far, thought maybe Jackie would want some space."
Burke gave a snort of derision, "Don't give me that crap."
Robbie raised his eyes to meet the older man's defiantly as he asked, "Something you want to say?"
Burke straightened his shoulders, as he finally decided to voice the suspicion that had built over the months. "I want you to tell me that the kid isn't yours."
He should lie, deny the truth, it would be better that way, but he was tired of hiding something that he wanted to admit to. "You'll be waiting a long time then."
Burke gave an irritated splutter, his neck blotching purple, his cheeks puffing out in indignation as he took a heavy step forward. "What the hell did you two think you were playing at?"
Looking upwards at the ceiling tiles for a moment, Robbie let out a puff of air and shook his head. "I don't know, it seemed like a good idea at the time, thought it couldn't go wrong."
"Aye well there can be a few obvious consequences from shagging, thought the one class you'd have paid attention in would be biology." He let out an annoyed snort. "So why are you not in there facing up to your responsibilities?"
"Can't," Robbie admitted. "I'm not good at this, Gaby took Jamie thousands of miles away from me I was that bad and he wasn't exactly gutted at the idea of leaving me behind."
"So learn from your bloody mistakes. Jesus, Robbie!" He shook his head. "Nobody's perfect but if you don't at least try then nothing in your life is ever going to change."
"Maybe I don't want it to change," Robbie muttered mulishly.
"Cut the shit!" Burke snapped. "You can't just turn your back and leave Jackie to face this alone, you need to step up."
"No I don't, Jackie wanted to do this alone, we agreed she would and now she wants to change the rules of the game I'm just supposed to jump?" Robbie snarled. He wasn't angry at Jackie, not really, he was angry at himself, angry that he couldn't just do what he wanted to and step up.
"No woman wants to do this unsupported."
"She did," he insisted. "That was the agreement, I got her pregnant and she'd take it from there."
"Agreement?" Burke muttered warningly.
Robbie pursed his lips, realising that he'd let too much slip and he averted his gaze as he felt Burke's eyes almost bore a hole through him. "Jackie wanted a kid, I thought it would be better if she didn't have it with some anonymous donor so here we are."
"So let me get this straight...this kid is a test tube baby?"
"No, he's not."
Burke's skin mottled again. "What world were you two residing in when you came up with this idiotic idea? Was it not complicated enough between the pair of you without adding a kid into the mix?"
"She was going to go ahead of it regardless of me making the offer," he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Then why make it? You didn't have to involve yourself in this."
"I didn't want her having some stranger's kid, that's why," he admitted, finally saying the words out loud.
"If you feel that way then why are you not in there with them both."
"I told you, I can't be a good dad and I can't let them down the way I did with Gaby and Jamie."
Burke patted his arm as he told him quietly, "But if you walk away then that's exactly what you're doing. Just think about this carefully, you've got a second chance and take it from someone else who screwed up his relationship with his son, you should grab this with both hands."
Robbie watched as Burke finally turned on his heel and left him in the quiet corridor, thinking on his words.